Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
CRu1853!!

HAL Canada/New England shore excursions

Recommended Posts

Hello all, I know some may tell me to go to the board for the Canada/New England cruises but I am looking for specific info from HAL cruisers.

DH and I are doing the 10 day cruise in April and choosing our excursions. I am looking for any yeas/nays on the following tours:

Bar Harbor:

Acadia National Park and lobster bake

An intimate look at Acadia National Park

Halifax:

Explore the ocean floor

Historic Lunenburg

O Canada Eh? A small group tour

Sidney, Nova Scotia:

 Relive history at the fortress of Louisbourg

Charlottetown, PEI:

Charlottetown on your own GPS

Fun with Falcons

Island drive and Anne of Green Gables

Quebec:

A walk through Old Quebec

Thank you ahead of time, I know this is long but any ideas and comments are appreciated.

:classic_rolleyes:

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fun with Falcons was amazing.   Jamie, the falconeer, is very knowledgeable and his wife and kids very accommodating to the groups who visit their home to learn about the birds of prey.  We each got to hold a falcon and then we went outside and had a hawk dive in, sit on our hand and eat from our hand.

 

In Halifax we were disappointed because our excursions to Lunenberg and Explore the Ocean floor were cancelled.  I'd have a plan B and check often with the excursions desk.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I did the Fortress of Louisbourg in May. Not all of the fortress is open that early in the season. However, they do open enough places that you can get an overall appreciation of the site. They also personalize a visit to a home with people in costume who serve an old hot chocolate recipe which we appreciated. They also opened the bakery where we could get a much needed coffee and excellent home  baking before returning to the port. I was glad I went. Atlantic Canada is generally cold in April so make sure you take warm clothing including gloves and a hat. Be prepared for rain. In Charlottetown, you dock in the centre of town and can easily walk around on your own. The same for Quebec City.  There is a local tour bus in Bar Harbour that goes to Acadia park and it is quite reasonably priced. Halifax is also walkable with lots of things to see if your other options don't pan out.  Here is a link to the blog posts that I did on that trip.  https://lesliesh.wordpress.com/2018/05/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

PEI: Prince Edward Island with House fo Green Gables was one of our favorites - and we had never read the book but did become later intrigued with the plucky orphan story. Just a gorgeous island so try to see as much as you can. Charlottestown has a very good shoe store in its little downtown - discounts on an excellent choice of good European brands - a bit of a famous stop for cruise passengers)

 

NOVA SCOTIA: We did Luneberg which was also very pretty and a way to see a lot of the countryside, but it requires you miss Halifax which by all accounts is also a must see city. Unfortunately on a later return cruise we also missed Halifax entirely due to high winds, but it should be maybe the first thing you see in Nova Scotia and save Luneberg for a later visit on another cruise because this entire itinerary can be enjoyed over and over again.

 

SYDNEY: We did both Louisburg and the Coal Mine tours on two visits - both highly recommended. (Caution: Coal mine tour does require a lot of  bending in the low ceiling tunnels)

 

ACADIA: we were on the Fall Color tour so this was the place to see the sweep of the brilliant color changes. Any tour that guarantees the top of Cadillac Mountain (can be too busy in the summer) is a good tour to take if you want to see this area.

If you time it right, you can walk out to the island in the Bar Harbor bay when the tide it out and the sand spit is revealed. Bar Harbor is a nice walkable town on its own plus a good place to get clam chowder, lobster rolls and blue berry pie for lunch.

 

QUEBEC: We think this a a city that is very doable on your own with a little pre-planning to include what interests you - be sure to track down a Chez Acton for the real deal "poutine" local speciality - we never found it as good elsewhere after falling in love with it in Quebec at this chain. (Fries, squeaky fresh white cheese curds and savory gravy - yes it is delicious)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We did O Canada Small Group.  The lunch was amazing, and the smaller bus fit into the narrow streets of Luninburg better than the larger buses.  We had our visit to the Acadian Maple shop cut short, because of a couple that missed the return deadline at Peggy's Cove and only one bathroom at Acadian maple.    I reported this to the shore ex office, and she mentioned that due to the larger number of stops, and sometimes, we must choose from the bathroom and the site.  I contacted EXC office this year about O Canada Small Group, and learned they only planned to spend 30 minutes at Peggy's Cove.  So, cancelled O Canada and booked the Luninburg, Peggy's Cove and Mahony Bay instead.   Three stops, for the one w/ Mahony Bay instead of five or six w/ O Canada.

 

Our tour guide at Peggy's Cove mentioned on a five ship day, they had 47 buses in Peggy's Cove at once.  So, that's something to keep in mind if you book something w/ Peggy's Cove.

 

Love the guides in Halifax.  Men wear kilts and women wear skirts.  Lots of good information.  Learn something new each time.

 

Sydney - We like Spirit of the Fiddle.  No long bus ride.

 

P.E.I - Nice scenery w/ Island Drive & Anne of Green Gables. 

 

Bar Harbor - Done Acadia several times.  I'm holding out for Jordan Pond House.  Bar Harbor does involve tender rides ashore.  May try the Intimate Acadia.  Got to check the weather report first to see how windy it will be.  Transferring in and out of tenders can be scary in high wind.

 

 

 

 

Edited by knittinggirl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would second "Fun with Falcons", it was one of the most fascinating HAL tours I have done. Also very much enjoyed "Sailing on the Bras D'Or Lakes", a HAL tour out of Sydney, although I imagine an experienced sailor would find it somewhat tame.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, OlsSalt said:

PEI: Prince Edward Island with House fo Green Gables was one of our favorites - and we had never read the book but did become later intrigued with the plucky orphan story. Just a gorgeous island so try to see as much as you can. Charlottestown has a very good shoe store in its little downtown - discounts on an excellent choice of good European brands - a bit of a famous stop for cruise passengers)

 

NOVA SCOTIA: We did Luneberg which was also very pretty and a way to see a lot of the countryside, but it requires you miss Halifax which by all accounts is also a must see city. Unfortunately on a later return cruise we also missed Halifax entirely due to high winds, but it should be maybe the first thing you see in Nova Scotia and save Luneberg for a later visit on another cruise because this entire itinerary can be enjoyed over and over again.

 

SYDNEY: We did both Louisburg and the Coal Mine tours on two visits - both highly recommended. (Caution: Coal mine tour does require a lot of  bending in the low ceiling tunnels)

 

ACADIA: we were on the Fall Color tour so this was the place to see the sweep of the brilliant color changes. Any tour that guarantees the top of Cadillac Mountain (can be too busy in the summer) is a good tour to take if you want to see this area.

If you time it right, you can walk out to the island in the Bar Harbor bay when the tide it out and the sand spit is revealed. Bar Harbor is a nice walkable town on its own plus a good place to get clam chowder, lobster rolls and blue berry pie for lunch.

 

QUEBEC: We think this a a city that is very doable on your own with a little pre-planning to include what interests you - be sure to track down a Chez Acton for the real deal "poutine" local speciality - we never found it as good elsewhere after falling in love with it in Quebec at this chain. (Fries, squeaky fresh white cheese curds and savory gravy - yes it is delicious)

Agree with all of this and have done the bulk of them.  Loved the coal mine since my Dad and lots of relatives were coal miners at one time.  

 

As to Bar Harbor - we took the longer Ollies Trolley tour to Cadillac Mountain and loved it.  Very easy to find this local tour (ticket office right on the small pier and the trolley were a block away) - you can purchase ahead of time as well.  Highly recommended and used by many on this board.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another suggestion for Bar Harbour - Woody at Bar Harbour Coastal Tours (207) 288-1222. I have used his service twice with very good results. He is a local that grew up in the area and will give you a great local tour, with excellent commentary.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you considered DIY excursions? For example, there are many free walking tours of Quebec City, as well as less expensive paid tours. This is just one of many examples: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/canada/quebec-city/travel-tips-and-articles/a-walking-tour-of-quebec-city/40625c8c-8a11-5710-a052-1479d276214a  We've found tours like this for many different cities and love being able to walk at our own pace.

 

Another DIY suggestion would be to rent a car (they'll pick you up and drop you off at the port) and drive to Louisbourg. Car rental and entry fee will probably be less than a single excursion ticket and gives you the opportunity to do a little bit of exploring on the side. When we took a Canada/New England cruise in 2015, we rented a car and did DIY excursions in all ports other than Bar Harbor. We booked with Oli's Trolley there and highly recommend it.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It will be cold in most ports and there will be abbreviated tourist activities in some. 

We have visited Maine for years. Ollie’s trolley will have a couple tours running. They do a great job. Call or check web site closer to departure to see what they will run.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We cruised on the Veendam this past May on this itinerary and loved it - we're from Ontario. 

Quebec City is definitely a walk around city and take in the sights on your own.  Take the finicular up to the Chateau Frontenac level and walk in front of the hotel.  Spectacular sights.  Charlottetown we rented a car from Enterprise and they picked us up right at the pier.  We drove down the south shore to the Confederation bridge, had a great seafood lunch, took in Cows creamery and headed back to the ship.  In Sydney - Enterprise car rental again -- picked us up at the pier and we drove straight out to Glace Bay where we did the Miner's Museum - HIGHLY recommended.  Wonderful people, very informative.  If you do this on your own, let them know you're coming because April is very early in the season and they don't have many tours going on throughout the day.  They put us with another tour group (that paid a lot more money for the excursion) and we had the same experience for a fraction of the cost.  We went to a lobster place on the pier near the museum and they boiled us some lobsters that were walking on the ocean floor that morning and we found a picnic table in town and gobbled them up.  In Halifax, it was pouring rain and we took a taxi to the Maritime Museum and that was very interesting.  In better weather we could have done so much more.  In fact, we had a walking tour of the city booked, but because of the weather, we cancelled it.  In Bar Harbour, we just toured around on our own, had a great lunch and saw many lovely little shops.  Boston was where our cruise ended and we just flew back to Montreal that day.  

I wouldn't hesitate to rent a car and tour on your own.  Each province's tourism websites have great resources to driving tours and sightseeting (PEI especially).  The cost of a car rental was about $70/day, and the people at Enterprise were very helpful and accommodating.  

Have fun on your cruise.  We loved it.  We normally cruise with our now teenage kids in the Caribbean but thought we'd jump on this itinerary close to home and we really enjoyed it.  Early May was considered the beginning of the season and the weather was generally good.  We wore a windbreaker over pants and a sweatshirt most days and were perfectly comfortable -- though we're hearty and used to the Canadian climate.😉

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

I've done at least a half-dozen Canada cruises over the years, and I've loved every one, spring, summer, or fall. Lots of DIY opportunities on your cruise. It takes some advance research, but for me that's part of the fun of travel.

 

Halifax has more than enough for one day, so I'd do that as a DIY. You can take a taxi (or walk uphill) to the fort, then work your way downhill to the Maritime Museum. You could include the public garden along the way--it probably would have lots of daffs that time of year. Then, after the Maritime Museum, walk the boardwalk back to the ship. There's also an immigration museum right at the pier. And a great farm market in a "green" building nearby, too. I hated the Lunenburg tour. Lunenburg was OK, but mostly cute shops (how is that a UNESCO World Heritage Site??), as was the other stop in Mahone Bay. The problem was the tour itself. The drive was considerably longer than the description said, so there wasn't enough time to walk around Lunenburg and have lunch and see the museum. You could rent a car to have more freedom but you'd have to be mindful of time, which could put a damper on the day. If I had to choose just one thing in Halifax, it would be the Maritime Museum.

 

Quebec City is also a good DIY day. The old city is lovely, and great for walking around. Lots of good places to have lunch. Walk around Petit Champlain with its cute shops, take the funicular up to the huge Chateau Frontenac hotel. There's also a good "museum of civilization," with Canadian history as permanent exhibits and always intersting temporary exhibits (all about cats and dogs one time, London another time)

 

In Sydney, I've done the off-season tour to Louisbourg, and it's true that it isn't fully open. I would hesitate to do it independently off-season, because the character interpreters we saw (and the hot chocolate) were put on for our tour. If we'd been independent visitors we'd have missed that. Of the tours I've done in Sydney, Louisbourg was my favorite. Our visits to Sydney always had earlier departures than other ports, so we were too risk-averse to rent a car there.

 

I agree with Sprockie about renting a car on PEI. We've done that twice. The main focus the first time was to go to Green Gables, and the second time was just to drive around and have a lobster lunch. For anyone who read the Anne books, you really have to go to Green Gables. It isn't Montgomery's house, and might  be the inspiration for GG or might not. But it's a lovely farmhouse set up to remind you of the book. I had reread the book before the cruise and I stumbled on a bio of Montgomery in the ship's library (see, HAL, some of us DO use the library!!!!), so I was primed to get the most out of the day. Even if you aren't a fan of Anne, it's a nice bit of PEI history and a pretty place. (DH had never read the books but still enjoyed the visit) The advantage of going to GG on your own is you can hit it mid-day, as we did--arriving just as the morning tours leave and finishing just as the afternoon tours are arriving. PEI is beautiful and if you rent a car you can stop as the spirit moves you. 

 

Bar Harbor is a good DIY. The lobster bake might be nice, but I generally avoid tours that include lunch because it's time I could spend sightseeing. And if you want lobster, there are plenty of places to get it in Bar Harbor. Acadia is definitely worth seeing, and Oli's Trolley is a good choice. Another thing to do on your own in Bar Harbor is a "Maine Foodie Tour." The Portland one is outstanding, and the Bar Harbor one is almost as good. (More ribald stories in Portland)

 

I was just on a Canada cruise this fall, and thinking about it makes me want to go again!!

Edited by 3rdGenCunarder

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, 3rdGenCunarder said:

I hated the Lunenburg tour. Lunenburg was OK, but mostly cute shops (how is that a UNESCO World Heritage Site??), as was the other stop in Mahone Bay. The problem was the tour itself. The drive was considerably longer than the description said, so there wasn't enough time to walk around Lunenburg and have lunch and see the museum. You could rent a car to have more freedom but you'd have to be mindful of time, which could put a damper on the day. If I had to choose just one thing in Halifax, it would be the Maritime Museum.

I've never taken a shore excursion to Lunenburg, so I can't speak to the quality of those provided by HAL or private operators and what they enable you to see or do. On the other hand, I lived in Halifax for many years, and a day trip out to Lunenburg and area was always a favourite outing with family and friends visiting us. Whenever we now visit Halifax, which we do frequently, Lunenburg is always part of our plans. When DW and I visited on the Maasdam a couple of years ago, that's where we headed with our rental car. The UNESCO World Heritage Site designation is well deserved, IMO, as Old Town Lunenburg is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. Established in 1753, it has retained its original layout and overall appearance and has much to offer beyond cute shops.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Can anyone offer comments about St. Pierre & Miquelon or Baie Comeau?  Our Sep/19 cruise includes both stops.  While HAL has shorex posted for the other ports, they do not have any for these two.  I realize it could still be a little too early but I'm wondering if HAL will offer ANY shorex at these two stops since they are rare port stops.  If that's the case, then I'll increase my efforts at private tours/DIY options.  

 

And before someone comments, someone from the roll call already asked about touring options for these two ports in the ports forum.  My question is more HAL specific.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, Fouremco said:

I've never taken a shore excursion to Lunenburg, so I can't speak to the quality of those provided by HAL or private operators and what they enable you to see or do. On the other hand, I lived in Halifax for many years, and a day trip out to Lunenburg and area was always a favourite outing with family and friends visiting us. Whenever we now visit Halifax, which we do frequently, Lunenburg is always part of our plans. When DW and I visited on the Maasdam a couple of years ago, that's where we headed with our rental car. The UNESCO World Heritage Site designation is well deserved, IMO, as Old Town Lunenburg is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. Established in 1753, it has retained its original layout and overall appearance and has much to offer beyond cute shops.

 

If the tour hadn't wasted time on back roads so we could see the lake where Tom Selleck has a house (if that's even true), I might have had time to explore Lunenburg more. The guide really turned me off. In addition to talking the entire time, usually saying things twice for emphasis, he told whoppers about the filming of "Titanic" (he claimed it was all filmed in and around Halifax) and very strongly suggested a particular restaurant where mentioning his name would let you get a table quickly (kickback, anyone?). So with all of that, Lunenburg didn't appeal to me. But that's the risk you take when you do a ship's tour and can't control the route or timing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 minutes ago, Alberta Quilter said:

Can anyone offer comments about St. Pierre & Miquelon...

It's been many years, so my memory is poor, but I'll post what I do remember.
We had one stop at St. Pierre; nothing at Miquelon. There was a HAL tour at the time (might have been more, but I took one) that was a drive around. I do remember one stop at a cemetery, which I found interesting.
There were some singers/dancers in the town square to welcome us, and several shops.
It's a small, quaint, town. And you're in France when you are there! This is not Canada, but full Departments of France.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, RuthC said:

It's been many years, so my memory is poor, but I'll post what I do remember.
We had one stop at St. Pierre; nothing at Miquelon. There was a HAL tour at the time (might have been more, but I took one) that was a drive around. I do remember one stop at a cemetery, which I found interesting.
There were some singers/dancers in the town square to welcome us, and several shops.
It's a small, quaint, town. And you're in France when you are there! This is not Canada, but full Departments of France.

 

Thank you Ruth.  I'm on the same cruise as Alberta Quilter who posed the question. Just an fyi that my HAL PCC has given me the docking information for our port call in Saint Pierre & Miquelon, and it's at Miquelon.  It will definitely be interesting to be in France in North America!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 minutes ago, Alberta Quilter said:

Can anyone offer comments about St. Pierre & Miquelon or Baie Comeau?  Our Sep/19 cruise includes both stops.  While HAL has shorex posted for the other ports, they do not have any for these two.  I realize it could still be a little too early but I'm wondering if HAL will offer ANY shorex at these two stops since they are rare port stops.  If that's the case, then I'll increase my efforts at private tours/DIY options.  

 

And before someone comments, someone from the roll call already asked about touring options for these two ports in the ports forum.  My question is more HAL specific.

 

HAL did offer tours when we were in Baie Comeau 8 years ago.  I don't recall a long list of tours. The only tour I remember was the one we took, which was to a hydro power plant. Then we walked around the town a bit. I remember a park and a nice path with views of the sea and the ship. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Last September I took this cruise.  In Bar Harbor I was on the Acadia National Park and Lobster Bake tour.  The tour to Acadia was great!  Unfortunately the lobster bake was a big disappointment.  The lobster was very small and very much overcooked.  The dining room was very large but also very overcrowded. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, 3rdGenCunarder said:

 

If the tour hadn't wasted time on back roads so we could see the lake where Tom Selleck has a house (if that's even true), I might have had time to explore Lunenburg more. The guide really turned me off. In addition to talking the entire time, usually saying things twice for emphasis, he told whoppers about the filming of "Titanic" (he claimed it was all filmed in and around Halifax) and very strongly suggested a particular restaurant where mentioning his name would let you get a table quickly (kickback, anyone?). So with all of that, Lunenburg didn't appeal to me. But that's the risk you take when you do a ship's tour and can't control the route or timing.

How very disappointing for you. When we were neophyte cruisers, we took a number of so-so HAL excursions and experienced guides who were less than stellar, but with with a lot of guidance from Cruise Critic contributors, we soon switched to DIY and private excursions. There is so much information available today on the internet that planning an excursion has become a piece of cake. It helps being retired and having both the time and interest in doing the research, but for me, planning is half the fun.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, 3rdGenCunarder said:

 

HAL did offer tours when we were in Baie Comeau 8 years ago.  I don't recall a long list of tours. The only tour I remember was the one we took, which was to a hydro power plant. Then we walked around the town a bit. I remember a park and a nice path with views of the sea and the ship. 

 

 

I will be patient and give them a couple more months to post tours.  Thank you.

1 hour ago, RuthC said:

It's been many years, so my memory is poor, but I'll post what I do remember.
We had one stop at St. Pierre; nothing at Miquelon. There was a HAL tour at the time (might have been more, but I took one) that was a drive around. I do remember one stop at a cemetery, which I found interesting.
There were some singers/dancers in the town square to welcome us, and several shops.
It's a small, quaint, town. And you're in France when you are there! This is not Canada, but full Departments of France.

 

As Turtles06 mentioned, we're docking in Miquelon so it will be more challenging to get to St Pierre.  From most of the info that I found, it sounds like the main town is on St Pierre.  

 

With these two ports, I'm thinking that a HAL tour may be the way to go.  That's what we found for the Iles de la Madeleine.  

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Fouremco said:

I've never taken a shore excursion to Lunenburg, so I can't speak to the quality of those provided by HAL or private operators and what they enable you to see or do. On the other hand, I lived in Halifax for many years, and a day trip out to Lunenburg and area was always a favourite outing with family and friends visiting us. Whenever we now visit Halifax, which we do frequently, Lunenburg is always part of our plans. When DW and I visited on the Maasdam a couple of years ago, that's where we headed with our rental car. The UNESCO World Heritage Site designation is well deserved, IMO, as Old Town Lunenburg is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. Established in 1753, it has retained its original layout and overall appearance and has much to offer beyond cute shops.

 

Maritime Museum in Halifax is very short walk from whereffhe ship docks and is  worth seing IMO>  They have a wonderful collection of ships' bells

 

I also foun the cemetery where are buried many of those  lost on T itanic.   I was   better   able  to grasp  the great diversity of the Halifax population., as we viewed the Italian section, the Greek section, Jewish etc.     It also is  near where ship docks though we did not walk there..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • 2019 Cruisers' Choice Destination Awards
      • Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo invites you to #CrewUpWithWomen
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...